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FACEBOOK COURT CASE Hate-case dismissed after three-hour hearing Allen Meagher reports from Killarney District Court

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landmark court case was heard on September 30th, in Killarney District Court, following a Garda investigation into complaints over the setting up of an anti-Traveller Facebook site called ‘Promote the Use of Knacker Babies As Bait’. Patrick Kissane (27), of Knockasartnett, Killarney, Co Kerry, appeared before the court charged with an offence under the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989. The defendant apologised for setting up the site which was in existence for eight months and after a three-hour hearing the case was dismissed by Judge James O’Connor. He ruled there was reasonable doubt that there was an intent to incite hatred towards members of the Traveller community. Judge O’Connor had questioned witness Mary Boyne, a Traveller, asking her had she personally experienced an increase in hate directed towards her after Mr Kissane set up

Pat Kissane

his site. She replied, “No.” Both Ms Boyne and another witness Patricia O’Brien had felt frightened for their children when they first found out about the Facebook page. Asked to account for his behaviour, Mr

PAVEE POINT: “Disappointed” with outcome

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avee Point director Martin Collins said after the court case, “We are disappointed there wasn’t a prosecution, it might send out a message that this is acceptable behaviour, that you can get away with it.” He thought it was a “very limited way” to measure the impact of the defendant’s behaviour to ask a witness if she

Martin Collins

personally had experienced an increase in hate after the antiTraveller Facebook page was set up. “It was an inadequate way of measuring if there was an increase in racist sentiment across the country,” said Mr Collins. Although Facebook appear to be blocking anti-Traveller pages since the issue was highlighted, Mr Collins was dismissive. “I’ve no confidence in Facebook to police this properly. Nothing to do with Travellers, but for wider reasons - they’re interested in profit - I don’t believe they’re sincere about monitoring or policing it.” He called again for the hatecrime legislation to be overhauled. “It’s not effective. Yet it’s still important for people to make complaints so that cases reach the courts. That’s the only way to highlight the inefficiencies in the legislation. Also, if cases aren’t brought, people might think racism is not an issue.”

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Kissane claimed an incident had occurred in a bar in which he worked involving Travellers and within hours of that incident he set up the site. “I felt angry and powerless. Sitting in front of the computer was the coward’s way of doing it because I wasn’t able to handle myself in the bar earlier,” he told the court. Defence solicitor Pat F O’Connor told the court his client was “sickened” by his own behaviour. Before he dismissed the case, Judge O’Connor said that had other material come to light that showed the defendant had more involvement in anti-Traveller sites than appeared then he might have looked differently on the matter. For an audio report, you can download a podcast interview conducted by Sunshine Radio with Allen Meagher after the court case: http://bit.ly/vJuEQj

WITNESS PROUD:

“We accomplished Something”

M

ary Boyne appeared as a witness in the court case and despite the outcome of the case she was “happy with where we got to.” “I’m proud. I know well I accomplished something by making my complaint. She didn’t enjoy being in the witness stand but would do it again. “It was like I was up for doing something they way they questioned me,” she remarked. She advised anyone who might make a complaint like she did to know the Incitement to Hatred Act “off by heart.” “I’d be smarter and wiser about the court proceedings if I went again. For example, I didn’t know I could interrupt the judge when I didn’t understand what he was

Mary Boyne

asking me. Ms Boyne said, “A lot of people were disgusted by the court’s judgement.” “Don’t let this put you off. Make your complaints if you see racism, there could well be a conviction on a different day.”

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CHANGING IRELAND ISSUE 37  

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